Readers’ wildlife photos

August 17, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today Mark Sturtevant graces us with a passel of dragonfly photos. His IDs and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are pictures of late summer dragonflies from eastern Michigan, taken two years ago. Most are males, for some reason, and several are focus stacked by hand. Taking hand-held pictures for focus stacking is actually a rather simple procedure, so long as one aims to just take, say, 2-5 pictures for the stack. Benefits of this is that one can get more of the subject in focus, and it’s possible to arrange for a softer and less distracting background.

First up is a twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella). Mature males like this develop white patches on their wings. 

Next up is a new species from the clubtail family. This is the riverine clubtail (Stylurus amnicola). I still have about four more species of clubtails in my area that I’ve never photographed. It’s one of the things that keeps me going out there! 

Next is a species that vies to be photographed by EVERYBODY in North America at one point, as they are colorful, common, and easy to photograph if you have a long-ish lens. This is the blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). But here I chose a new angle on it. From the link you can see what they look like, and if you are in North America you’ve likely seen lots of them near any lake or pond. 

The remaining dragonflies are “mosaic” darners in the darner family, and these large dragons could easily eat that blue dasher. Mosaic darners have similar markings, and many are difficult to tell apart so some IDs are a bit tentative. The first two species commonly sit in tall grasses. One pretty much has to flush them out to see them, and then they might, after a time, land nearby where they can be photographed. First is a female lance-tipped darner (Aeshna constricta). Females of this species can be marked in green, but many like this one are “andromorphs”, meaning that it has blue markings like a male. 

Andromorphy is a pretty common thing among Odonates, and the speculation around this is that it saves females from being constantly harassed by males. If you watch male dragonflies and damselflies, you will soon appreciate this benefit since males are randy most of the time! 

The next mosaic darner dragonfly was photographed on the same day as the previous one, but this one flew up and landed in the trees nearby. This (I think!) is a male green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis). 

The next mosaic darner was a pretty big thrill for me, since I seldom get a chance to photograph it. This is a shadow darner (Aeshna umbrosa). Shadow darners tend to perch in tree canopies, and I’ve probably walked past many of them without even knowing they were there. I was lucky here, since this one flew past me and landed practically under my nose! I had to back away (slowly) for the picture. 

The last picture features my favorite mosaic darner, the gorgeous spatterdock darner (Rhionaeschna mutata). Dragonflies have different behaviors, according to their species, and this big dragonfly seems to be the type that will fly along their territory all day without landing, as if to taunt you. But spatterdocks will then suddenly land and you can get very close to them for pictures.  

9 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Gorgeous and such delicate bugs! I love your photos. They really are magical insects.
    Thank you for this post of photos and information.

  2. Thar be dragons in Michigan. And boy are they gorgeous. Thanks for these stunning photos, Mark, and the accompanying information.

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